Looking back with hindsight, the most bizarre aspect of the first Test in the 2005 Ashes series was the fact that people thought Ian Bell and Graham Thorpe would keep Kevin Pietersen out of the team. In the end, England made the brave decision.
England lost this match by some distance, but they rattled the Aussie batting line-up. Harmison hit Langer on the elbow in the first over and then rattled Hayden’s helmet in the fifth. Later on, he got Ponting in the face.
This is the point about fast bowling. Getting hit in the face by a cricket ball bothers people. It really does. It affects your concentration. If you don’t believe us, sit down to do a sudoku in a batting helmet and see how you get on after a ringing blow to the temple. You could be the best damn sudokist in the world, but it’ll put you off.
The Aussies were all out for just 190, but when England batted it was all more familiar. Glenn McGrath reduced them to 21-5 and they were all out for 155. The Aussies batted better second time around and then dismissed England for 180.
England’s batting looked shot, but no batsman passed 100 in the match and Kevin Pietersen showed that English batsmen needn’t fold.
For England fans, they liked the idea that when the batting collapsed, at least they could kid themselves that the bowlers might be able to salvage things. England fans take a bit of convincing that their side isn’t incompetent, so this was pretty much boundless optimism by English standards.